Sunday, January 7, 2018

You Should Trust Our Technology - Even If We Don’t

My wife and I took a trip to the lovely state of Utah last summer. We spent time with good friends at Nerdtacular and hit all five National Parks during our two-week stay.

Upon our arrival home I noticed that a $200 pair of sunglasses were missing from my checked luggage. Being obviously upset, I contacted both the airline and the TSA (Transportation Security Administration). I had placed the sunglasses into my luggage, checked it at the counter, and waved “goodbye” to it as it was handed over to the TSA.

I had contacted both, because it could easily have been accessed by someone from either group.

The TSA representative on the phone told me that IF the TSA had inspected my bag, they would have left a note saying they had done so. Since there was no such note, the TSA clearly did not inspect my bag. The representative then told me that, since I cannot lock my bag to prevent theft, I should either use cable ties (that can be cut by the TSA to inspect) or a TSA-approved lock - where they have a key that will open it.

A couple of things here. First, if someone is going to rob your house, do they normally leave a note explaining that they did it (including WHO)? If I was going to rob your house, I certainly wouldn’t leave a calling card! This isn’t a “B” movie from the 1970s! It’s more obvious that someone, even under the pretense of an “official” TSA inspection, saw something they wanted, took it, and did not leave a note.

Second, isn’t the argument why a TSA-approved lock isn’t appropriate the same as giving the government/police a “back door” to the encryption on your phone? If there is a key that can unlock any TSA-approved lock, than wouldn’t that be “hackable” - by anyone?!?

On Christmas Day, my wife and I flew out of Cleveland and went to Ft. Myers. Her folks are retired and live there, so we try to get there as often as possible. We DO NOT want them here (Cleveland) in the winter. You know, we LOVE them!

When we arrived at her parents’ house and we started to unpack, I found the following:

Yup! My bag was inspected by the TSA. The funny part is the first paragraph (and is the purpose of this blog post):

“To protect you and your fellow passengers, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is required by law to inspect all checked baggage. As part of this process, some bags are opened and physically inspected. Your bag was among those selected for physical inspection.”

So, in order to “protect” me and my fellow passengers, the TSA is required by law to inspect ALL checked baggage. How do they do this? Well, they run it through a scanner. Much like they use for your carry on.

The scanner does not work. Why? IF the scanner worked, they wouldn’t have to physically inspect a bag. BECAUSE they physically inspect some bags, they admit the scanner does not work. If it did work, they would not have to physically inspect them.

But, I thought they do this to “protect you and your fellow passengers”? They don’t. If they did give a rat’s ass about us, they would inspect EVERY bag (as required by law). They don’t. They randomly pick a few and inspect them. Why should they inspect EVERY bag? Because they admit that the scanner does not work!

Apparently, the TSA inspectors are all multi-million-dollar lottery winners who pick winning tickets EVERY time. Because, if a plane holds about 140 people, with each person checking about 1.5 bags each (my wife and I normally check one bag each, though we see plenty of people in line with more than two), that means about 210 items are run through the useless TSA scanner for each flight. Then, out of the 210, maybe a half-dozen (generous assumption) get physically inspected. That means only one of every 35 bags are inspected. I’m not a math genius, but the odds of a “hot” bag getting by TSA is pretty good. And they do this in order to “protect” us.

I’m reminded of the classic movie “Airplane!” that came out in 1980. There is a scene in the airport security line where people are passing through a metal detector. There is an inspector watching a monitor. As men pass through the detector you see them walk by on the monitor. When a beautiful woman walks through, the image on the monitor is the woman walking through completely naked. Then a bunch of bearded men come through in camouflage, carrying rifles and bazookas. They pass right through. Then a little-old-lady walks through, the alarms go off, the guards grab her, slam her against the wall, and body search her. Meanwhile, more men with weapons pass through without setting off the alarms.

For a movie from 1980, when it came to safety and security technology, they weren’t that far off...

© Emittravel 2018

Monday, January 1, 2018

Not ANOTHER New Year's Resolution Post

Every year I make the same New Year's resolution. And, I'm happy to say, I've been very good at keeping it:

"I resolve to never make a New Year's resolution."

In my own, odd-humor way that is supposed to be funny. You may or may not agree. That's okay. Some would say it is rather lazy to not make a resolution. And they might be correct in that. But part of me thinks that changes in my life will take more than a pronouncement. And I think the same for you.

During one of the many televised New Year's Eve programs last night, someone I'm unfamiliar with sang John Lennon's "Imagine" right before the ball dropped in New York City. He did a nice job. And it was that song that spurred this particular post.

I'm not going to quote the song. I'm sure the simple mention of it has it playing in your head. It's one of those kind of songs. But what I am going to do is challenge you to think of what would be needed for that song to come a reality. Not just the lack of a heaven or hell; I'm talking about we all just getting along as one.

Would going to the gym more get us there? How about quitting smoking? Would even being more positive do the job?

I don't think so. It will take a lot more. It will take a lot more to get us past ourselves. You know: the very individuals who are the main blocks to progress. 

From Thanksgiving until New Year's Eve, the music my music players project are pretty much nothing but Christmas/Holiday tunes. One of the songs was from the Judd's 2000 celebration live album. Being a live album, there is some talking that is played. One of the things talked about was that, being the beginning of a new millenium, there was an overwhelming feeling of peace and togetherness. That we were approaching a new evolutionary state of humanity. Riiiggghhhttt.

I'm reminded of the song "Aquarius". Look it up. The 5th Dimension did a great job. They thought the same thing. 

It takes more than a declaration. It takes more than a feeling. It takes a radical change in US.

I make radical comments all the time. Usually to get people thinking. I recently made a comment to a person concerning racism. Apparently the lady who is marrying the Prince (England) is black. I questioned that. The person said that she was half black and half white. I said, "Oh yeah. If you are 99% white and 1% black, you are 100% black. That's okay. We are all black then." That got a rise. I told the person, "What color do you think Adam and Eve were? It has been estimated that the probable location of the Garden of Eden was Ethiopia. And, since you can get all colors from black, and no colors from white, Adam and Eve were obviously black." The person then replied, "I have black friends, but I'm NOT black."

If you have trouble seeing the racism in the above paragraph, you may just want to skip the rest of this post: it's not for you. Go to the gym.

As long as we humans remain the same, we will NOT EVER reach "the dawning of the Age of Aquarius". We will continue to drive the same. We will continue to talk others down. We will continue to live in a world of us versus them.

It takes more than a resolution. It takes a continuous, active focus on who we are, and effort to bring about the change we want to see. 

And no, don't expect everybody else to change along with you. Politicians will continue to be politicians (regardless of political stripe). Aggressive drivers will continue to cut you off. People will continue to kill other people because they think, believe, or look different. And people will continue to strive for Darwin Awards in spite of those that may get hurt around them.

You are only responsible for you. They say there is only one thing you take with you when you pass on: your character. Make it a good one.

© Emittravel 2018

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Why G.I. Joe Should Include G.I. Jane

I was reading a column that was focused on why everyone should be grateful for our troops and their service. As a former sailor in our U.S. Navy, I have a bit of difficulty understanding why anyone would not be grateful.

The column focused on the fact that we in the United States have an all-volunteer military. It’s been many a year since we’ve had a draft, and because of the volunteers, we have a strong defense.

I linked to the article at the beginning of this post, and you will notice that the site is of a decidedly libertarian nature. One aspect of libertarianism is a non-interventionist stance when it comes to how we use our military to function in the world. In other words, no nation building. You know, no going into a foreign country to liberate them and then “take up residence”. After all, we are not supposed to follow in the footsteps of our former mother-country.

The article points out the argument that if we had fewer individuals volunteer, we would have a smaller military, and therefore less incentive for such interventionist undertakings. They show the folly of the argument by pointing out that, even though we no longer have a draft, we do have a Selective Service.

What’s the Selective Service? According to the Selective Service System website:

“Virtually all male U.S. citizens, regardless of where they live, and male immigrants, whether documented or undocumented, residing in the United States, who are 18 through 25, are required to register with Selective Service.”

Did you notice what was decidedly missing from the above? I’ll give you a hint: Who does NOT have to register?

Get it now?

We hear a lot about equality and anti-discrimination. And I’m all for it. In My Humble But Accurate Opinion, the more equality and anti-discrimination, the less hate and racism we’d have.

There has been a lot of debates over whether or not women should serve in combat roles.

I think that not only should women be able to serve in combat, but they should be required to sign up for the Selective Service as well.

C’mon! Is equality just lip service? Is it only of value when it serves our narrative? I’m waiting for the million-women march over changing the Selective Service System to force women to sign up as well.

I’m rather fond of the (I-know-it’s-terrible-but-what-the-hell) movie “Starship Troopers”. One thing you noticed: BOTH men and women were in the service. As the movie made it clear: “The only good bug, is a dead bug,” and both men and women wanted to do their part. Why shouldn’t that be any different now?

So, in the spirit of equality, let’s change the Selective Service System to make both men AND women have to sign up.

After all, we currently don’t have a draft . . .

© Emittravel 2017

Sunday, December 3, 2017

My Least-Favorite Things

Remember when Sean Penn
Gave Madonna some bruises
And there’s John Travolta
Who liked men on ship cruises
Roman Polanski who raped
And left country on wings
These are a few of the creepier things

There is Bill Cosby
Who raped 13 women
Oliver Stone preferred
A perverted audition
Britney Spears flashed her guard
And showed him her blings
These are a few of the creepier things

Then Harvey Weinstein
Liked fertilizing flowers
Bill Clinton was accused
Of raping Jennifer . . . Flowers
Kevin Spacey said that
Pedophilia’s his thing
These are a few of the creepier things

When each new claim
Hits the media
And I start feeling blue
I just look at Twitter and then understand
All the cries of hashtag, “Me too!”

Okay, that was a very rough parody of Julie Andrew's “My Favorite Things”, but I think you get the picture.

It seems like more and more we hear of people behaving badly towards others. Usually when you have a “themed” media onslaught, I wonder what is the real, more terrible story being ignored. You know, what is this a distraction for? Sort of like, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” or more appropriately, “Pay no attention to the bill being passed by Congress.”

Then I wonder what if this IS the real, more terrible story.

And I want to cry.

“Peace on earth, goodwill towards men.”

Sigh . . .

© Emittravel 2017

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Reminds Me of the McCarthy Era

Recently we received a card in the mail from something called the OffenderWatch Initiative. It was a community notice of a sex offender in our area. This is the first such mailing we have received since we moved into the area over ten years ago. As a matter of fact, it is the first such mailing I’ve EVER received.

Either this is the first time a sex offender has moved into an area near me, OR, with all of the current accusations of sexual misconduct being the hot news item of the day, someone felt it necessary to notify us of this PARTICULAR sex offender.

The card lists some of the following details:

The person’s registration number
Date of birth and age
Sex - Male
Race - White (Which is hysterical to me, since “white” is not a race. I remember a comedian once saying there was no such thing as a white person. He then held up a sheet of paper next to his face and said, “If a person is this color, they’re dead.” We are all the same color - just different shades based on the amount of pigment.)
Height, weight, hair and eye color
The person’s address: (my neighborhood)
Aliases and identifying scars and/or tattoos
The offense (date committed, date convicted, counts, description, and crime details): 2015, one count gross sexual imposition (sexually motivated), one count kidnapping with sexual motivation, Tier III sex offender
And comments: Victim was an adult female

Not only does the mailer give me the person’s information, but it has safety tips listed to protect our children. Because, if the straight, white, male will commit a sexual offense against “an adult female”, OBVIOUSLY he will go after ALL children. You know, straight, white, males will commit pedophilia if they are attracted to someone of the opposite sex.

Unlike Kevin Spacey, a gay, white, male who made it known that as a homosexual, he OBVIOUSLY would go after (and DID go after) male children. (He was immediately condemned by the gay community for enforcing the stereotype that they have fought against for so long.)

The offenses and convictions took place in 2015. And yet, TWO YEARS LATER I’m receiving a notice that this person moved into my neighborhood.

Two years later.


I know, I should be concerned when a convicted sex offender has moved into my neighborhood. I am. But what really bothers me is that a CONVICTED SEX OFFENDER WAS ABLE TO MOVE INTO MY NEIGHBORHOOD IN THE FIRST PLACE, and some organization felt it necessary to notify me.

IF the person was convicted, why is he out on the streets - able to move into my neighborhood? If he is considered still dangerous, WHY IS HE OUT ON THE STREETS?!? What kind of judicial system do we have here?

If the prisons are so overcrowded that we have to let people out - the very people who should NOT be in with the masses - why not let out those individuals caught with marijuana or some other “illegal drug”.

Apparently, our judicial system finds that drug possession is MORE harmful to society than a convicted sex offender.

And IF the person has been deemed “normal” enough to return to society, WHY the F***ING notification?!? Is that just to scare the public?

We don’t need mailers telling us that there are sex offenders living in our neighborhoods. The media has made it clear that pretty much ALL males (especially straight white ones) are sex offenders.

Maybe we need mailers to tell us who the safe people are.

Hey OffenderWatch Initiative. Get right on that, will you?

© Emittravel 2017

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Have We All Become Judge Dredd?

When it comes to Star Trek vs. Star Wars . . . wars, I have to admit I’m pretty much on the side of Star Trek. Not that I dislike Star Wars, it’s just that I never got into that universe (or, more appropriately, that “galaxy far far away”). I don’t think I’ve ever watched a Star Wars movie more than once. I may have, but don’t recall. Now, Star Trek, on the other hand . . .

I think my love for Star Trek is partly due to my love of all things “time” related. I also enjoy the stories of us Earthlings and where the future may take us.

My wife and I have worked our ways through The Original Series, The Animated Series, The Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine. We are in the first season of Voyager currently. Being that we have several seasons to go with that series, and the entire Enterprise series as well, it may be a while before we get to the newest (current) incarnation: Discovery.

However, in the “I Want That Exact Same Suit But In A Completely Different Style” category, there is the newest creation from the mind of Seth MacFarlane: The Orville.

Oh. My. God. I LOVE The Orville. It is so much like Star Trek while at the same time being nothing like Star Trek. Each of the nine episodes (as of this writing) have been a fantastic ride - and very different in style from each other. I’m excited to say that the series has been green-lit for a second season.

The episodes have also been timely in the issues they have tackled. One such episode, “Majority Rule” (S01 E07) is almost a distress call to our current society.

As the episode is described, “Ed sends a team to find missing anthropologists on a planet similar to 21st century Earth; the mission goes awry when they realize the planet uses a public voting system to determine punishment.”

Today we are inundated in social media. Facebook and Twitter have been daily topics in the news. Was there collusion in the 2016 election by Russia via the purchase and display of political ads in Facebook? President Trump continually “kicks the hornet’s nest” with his tweets. And now, celebrities of all ilks are being “outed” as sex offenders and child molesters - many judged guilty in the “court” of social media as if it were fact.

Recently, George Takei had spoken out against Kevin Spacey over Spacey’s recent child molestation charges, announcing himself as gay, and his reinforcement of the stereotype that conflate said homosexuality with pedophilia.

What happened next? George Takei was accused of sexually assaulting a model back in 1981.

I saw George Takei’s rebuttal/apology/explanation in Twitter. The comment thread that followed was people believing it to be true because the victim is always the truthful one, people believing it to be false because false accusations are common, and people wanting to believe George Takei because he is George Takei.

Which brings me back to The Orville episode.

Have we become a society that allows social media to be the voice of reason, and ultimately judge, jury, and prosecution? Does anyone else see the danger here?

From "The Orville" - "Majority Rule"

Taylor Swift went through hell online because she didn’t say something against the Nazi march QUICK ENOUGH.  

People agree with things (“like” things), or disagree with things, just so their social circles will accept them. There is dopamine hits for liking and hating things online.

It has gotten to the point that if a man had looked at a woman the wrong way that woman will cry out on social media that she was molested. And more so, there are women who are saying #MeToo so they don’t “suffer” the same consequences as Taylor Swift.

The danger is that when all forms of harassment are classified as the most heinous, the most heinous will no longer be the most heinous. They will lose their impact (and therefore the attention such vile acts should receive.)

I’m going to confess something: I’m a white male. I was born this way. It was not a choice. And therefore, I can be accused of a life of “white privilege”. And being male, I am automatically guilty of sexual harassment if I’ve ever given a woman a compliment. Am I perfect? God no. Have I ever said or done something that might be deemed inappropriate? Absolutely. As Jesus made it so clear, “He who is without sin cast the first stone.”

You won’t find a stone in MY hand.

But on social media, there are many with both hands cocked and ready to throw a heater.

Does that sound extreme? It should. And if it doesn’t?

Well, I guess that is something to think about.

© Emittravel 2017

Sunday, November 5, 2017

To Know the Known

To Know the Known

Who is this God that I follow?
Who am I to follow Him?
To inspire song.
To comfort in sorrow.
To cradle the face of a child.
To wipe the tears from eyes
strained towards heaven.
In somber solitude I seek to abandon,
to achieve what I am unable to grasp.
To let go of the here,
to obtain the Now.
I am awed in Your presence.
Totally at peace in my frustration
for that of which eludes me.
When I think I’ve come to an understanding,
You turn and I am struck dumb.
I glimpse at Your glory and collapse.
Unable to behold Your beauty.
Your splendor.
I claim to hold a stallion by the reins;
to find I hold an ass.
The reins in my hand
steer the bit in my own mouth.
I long to know the Known.
To hold a piece of eternity.
Fallen man I am.
I discard the pride of reason
to become the fool of God.
To let go of achievement
for the brokenness of the humble.
Who is this God that I follow?
And who am I to follow Him?
J.P. Wiegand
© Emittravel 1999

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything about my spiritual journey. Many of you who have been reading my blog know that I was a very involved member of a church for YEARS. I took a sabbatical from October 2014 until about May of 2015. You’ll find much of my experience leading up to and during expressed here.

I returned to that church after the end of my sabbatical until the end of September. Since then I’ve been “churchless”. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to join with friends at their church to play in their worship team since then, but at this point I’ve no “desire” to become a regular church goer. What does the future hold? I’m not sure. This is still a journey, and I’m still a traveler on it.

The above poem was initially published to in January of 2007. The comment below accompanied it. I think it is still relevant:

Religion: from the word "religare" meaning "to tie back" or "strangle". The balancing act of faith in God, and mindless obedience to a religion. For me this is a lifelong struggle; the desire to know God, versus the arrogance of my own humanity. Do you seek to love someone JUST for what they can do for you? That's manipulation. If it doesn't work that way on Earth, why would we think it would work in the heavenlies? Just a thought. -j.p.

© Emittravel 2017